Lady Busters fight, but fall to Dragons in semis
By BRETT MARSHALL
By BRETT MARSHALL
WICHITA — Not even the biggest heart, with the biggest effort of diminutive 5-5 point guard Shauqunna Collins was enough to lift the Garden City Lady Broncbusters' basketball team to an upset of unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Hutchinson in Friday's Region VI semifinals at Koch Arena.
That's what Collins, a sophomore from Saginaw, Mich., delivered for the Lady Busters, as she poured in a game-high 28 points, handed out three assists, had three steals and grabbed four rebounds.
Still, the Lady Busters found themselves looking up at the short end of a 68-56 final score that really didn't tell the story of how close, and just as importantly, how hard the Lady Busters fought the powerhouse Lady Dragons.
While the two Jayhawk Conference West Division teams meet at least twice annually, and the Lady Dragons have had the upper hand throughout the series, Friday was all about the Lady Busters trying to topple a team that has lost just twice in the past three seasons, both at the NJCAA National tournament.
"As a coach, you couldn't ask for any more than what we got from the girls today," a reflective GCCC coach Nick Salazar said as he watched his first year at the helm of the Busters finish at 18-14. "We were right there. I wasn't sure we were in the ballgame (late), but we called timeout (1:42 remaining), and I looked up and we were only down seven (63-56)."
Salazar said all the Lady Busters needed was a stop, a rebound and a swift trip down the floor and get a bucket to put additional pressure on the Lady Dragons. But it didn't happen.
Five free throws down the stretch, sandwiched around a couple of missed shots by the Busters, let the Dragons finish out the win and move into today's 5 p.m. championship game against Butler (31-1), a 58-45 winner over Barton in the other semifinal.
"I'm proud of how hard we played and how we handled the way our season started (0-4) and how we started the conference (0-2)," Salazar said. "We're one of two teams (Hutch the other) to make the regional semifinals three years in a row. I'm happy we could continue what (former head coach) Alaura (Sharp) started."
Salazar was full of superlatives for his 5-5 point guard, who singlehandedly kept the Busters pushing and pushing. Playing all 40 minutes, she finished the game hitting 9-of-20 shots and was 10 of 13 from the free throw line.
"She just played her heart out," Salazar said of Collins, who was in tears in the hallway afterward heading to the Lady Busters' locker room. "I'd have a hard time believing she wasn't the best player on the floor."
That moniker also might be presented to Hutch's 5-11 sophomore guard Jamie Patrick, the Dragons' floor leader. After being held in check the first half (three points), the Hutchinson native scored 12 points in the final half, including three back-breaking 3-pointers, two right out of the halftime break. Patrick also grabbed eight rebounds.
"She just made the biggest difference," Salazar said of Patrick. "In Garden (68-55 Hutch win), we got it down to one. Today, it wasn't quite as dramatic. I think in the second half, it was more about them doing a better job of executing what they do. We just didn't have the counter to Patrick."
The Busters, who had a rebounding advantage in the first half, couldn't keep up the board battle, finishing on the short end of a 31-29 margin. Hutch's front line of Kalani Purcell and Briana Starks combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds, with Purcell getting a double-double with 12 points, and matching that in rebounds.
Jasmine Christmas, also playing in her final game, added 11 points for the Busters.
"I think she's probably the best player in the conference," Salazar said of Purcell. "We did a better job on her today, but it wasn't good enough."
The Lady Busters had jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first minute, 42 seconds before Salazar was slapped with a technical foul for objecting to a couple of early calls.
That seemed to take the starch out of the Lady Busters for some time as Hutch then scored 12-straight points over the next five minutes. It was back and forth over the next two minutes with the Lady Dragons clinging to a 17-13 edge at the 11:08 mark.
Then, Hutch had an 8-2 mini-run to reach a double-digit lead at 25-15 with 8:39 to play on a 20-foot jumper in the lane by Chelsea Dewey.
That seemed to awaken the Lady Busters, who then scored seven straight, cutting their deficit to 25-22. Hutch got it back to five, 31-26, with 2:02 before the half. But the Lady Busters kept pushing, scoring the final four points, all at the free-throw line, as Jasmine Christmas and Tori Spann were each 2 of 2.
Hutch's leading scorer during the season, Patrick, was held to just one field goal and a pair of free throws for four points in the opening half.
Collins, meanwhile, was brilliant.
Single-handedly she kept the Lady Busters rolling and in the game, scoring 15 points off 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 free throws. Turnovers plagued the Lady Busters in the first 20 minutes, committing 13 miscues as Hutch also came up with nine steals.
It was the first matchup in the Region VI tournament for the teams since Garden City won a quarterfinal contest in 2003 when the Lady Busters won the region and went on to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA National tourney.
Garden City (18-14) — Horton 0-0 0-0 0, Morris 3-9 1-2 7, Chisom 0-4 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Collins 9-20 10-13 28, S. Davis 2-5 0-0 4, Spann 0-3 4-4 4, Inchun 0-1 0-0 0, Christmas 3-4 4-4 11, Z. Davis 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 18-48 19-23 56.
Hutchinson (31-0) — Harding 2-5 5-5 9, Bloom 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick 4-7 4-4 15, Starks 4-7 6-8 14, Hill 2-4 2-4 7, Benoit 2-7 1-1 5, Dewey 2-5 0-0 4, Purcell 4-8 4-8 12, Jones 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-46 22-30 68.
Halftime--Hutchinson 31, Garden City 30. 3-point goals--Garden City 1-5 (Morris 0-1, Chisom 0-1, Collins 0-2, Christmas 1-1), Hutchinson 4-10 (Harding 0-2, Patrtick 3-3, Hill 1-2, Benoit 0-1, Dewey 0-2). Rebounds--Garden City 29 (Christmas 6), Hutchinson 31 (Purcell 12). Turnovers--Garden City 24, Hutchinson 22. Fouls--Garden City 24, Hutchinson 20. Fouled out--Garden City (S. Davis, Z. Davis). Assists--Garden City 6 (Collins 3), Hutchinson 14 (Patrick 4, Purcell 4). Blocked shots--Garden City 4 (Chisom 3), Hutchinson 5 (Purcell 2). Steals--Garden City 8 (Collins 3), Hutchinson 15 (Purcell 5).